DON MCLEAN Biography - Musicians


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Name: Donald McLean                                                                         
Born: 2 October 1945                                                                         
Donald McLean (born October 2, 1945 in New Rochelle, New York) is an American               
singer-songwriter. He is most famous for his 1971 songs "American Pie" and "Vincent".       
As a teenager, Don McLean purchased his first guitar (a Harmony F Hole with a               
sunburst finish) from the House of Music in New Rochelle, New York and took                 
opera lessons paid for by his sister. These lessons combined with many hours                 
swimming, helped Don develop breath control, which later allowed him to easily               
sing long, continuous phrases, in songs such as "Crying". The exercise also                 
meant his childhood asthma improved.                                                         
In 1961 Don's father died (his mother lived until 1985). Don had also been                   
profoundly affected by the deaths of both Buddy Holly and John F. Kennedy. These             
events would influence him in later life.                                                   
At this time, Don was most interested in folk music thanks, in part, to the                 
Weavers 1955 recording "Live at Carnegie Hall". Don wanted to become a                       
professional musician and singer and by 16 years of age he'd begun making                   
contacts in the business. Don became friends with Erik Darling and recorded his             
first studio sessions with Lisa Kindred.                                                     
McLean graduated from Iona Preparatory School in 1963, but dropped out of                   
Villanova University after four months. While at Villanova he became friends                 
with Jim Croce.                                                                             
After leaving Villanova, Don worked for “Harold Leventhal Management”. For the           
next six years Don performed at venues like the Bitter End and Gaslight Café in             
New York, the Newport Folk Festival, the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., the               
Main Point in Philadelphia, the Troubadour and Ash Grove in Los Angeles. He                 
appeared with such artists as Herbie Mann, Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry,                   
Melanie, Steppenwolf, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Janis Ian, Josh White, Ten                 
Wheel Drive and others. Concurrently, Don attended night school at Iona College             
and received a Bachelors degree in Business Administration in 1968. He was a                 
popular folk singer at campus events.                                                       
In 1968, with the help of a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts,               
he began reaching a wider public, with visits to towns up and down the Hudson               
River. He learned the art of performing from his friend and mentor Pete Seeger.             
McLean accompanied Seeger on his Clearwater boat up the Hudson River in 1969 to             
protest environmental pollution in the river. During this time Don wrote songs               
that would appear on his first album Tapestry. The Clearwater campaign was                   
widely credited for improving water quality in the Hudson River.